President Uhuru Kenyatta Thursday said decisions made by judicial officers should always elevate public interest rather than narrow partisan concerns.
The President said Kenya as a nation suffers when well-intentioned initiatives are blocked through courts by individuals who are disgruntled over business contracts or sometimes by busybodies who work for faceless sponsors.
“No interest is above public interest,” said the President when he spoke at the Supreme Court where he launched the 2018/2019 State of the Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Annual Report.
The President said government policies to improve the economy and security are often hampered by frequent court injunctions procured by people who are motivated by narrow interests rather than public good.
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He said some of the projects affected by court injunctions include health projects, irrigation schemes and plans to equip police with sufficient transport through the leasing of vehicles.
“We are not delivering when the executive’s policy for bettering security by equipping our national police service with vehicles through leasing programmes is stalled through courts of law,” said the President.
“Other injunctions have led to hospitals remaining unbuilt, innovative programmes that would spur our economy stuck in limbo, and our nation missing out on opportunities to other countries,” he continued.
The Head of State reminded the judiciary that its independence was intended to safeguard public interest but not personal interests.
“It is important to underscore that the independence is established in the public interest, to serve Kenyans. As you exercise it in considering whether to suspend government policies or otherwise, the public interest should be the overriding criteria,” the President advised.
On the war against corruption, the President called on all arms of Government to follow the example of the executive which has allowed the investigation and prosecution of its officials without any interference.
“While we in the executive cannot in any way claim to be perfect, we can point to numerous cases of our senior officers who have been subjected to investigations and prosecution, without any interference by the executive,” the President said as he called on the judiciary to have “frank internal conversation” on whether it is meeting the expectations of Kenyans, and whether it remains on the path of transformation that began in 2010.
“In the same way that the whole nation is discussing our renewal through the Building Bridges Initiative, the judiciary should candidly discuss internally and with external stakeholders, its current state and how it can be better,” the President advised.
The Head of State also urged the Judiciary to utilise funds that have been allocated efficiently knowing that budget rationalisation has affected all arms of government and assured that government will continue allocating adequate resources to enhance access to justice.
The President urged the Chief Justice to liaise with him if any development or operation funding is affected by the ongoing rationalisation.
“The wheels of justice will not grind to a halt because the national treasury issued a government-wide circular restricting buying three different newspapers, or use of in-house training and hospitality venues rather than utilising hotels and commercial venues,” the President said.
He pointed out that other recommendations of the circular included reducing the size of delegations on international travel, which does not compromise the administration of justice.
Chief Justice David Maraga said that the judiciary does not seek to obstruct the executive’s mandate and pointed out that the State of Judiciary and the Administration of Justice Annual Report is a constitutional requirement.
The CJ requested the President to allocate more funds to the Judiciary to enable them employ more judges and magistrates in order to reduce case backlogs.
He said an average of 400,000 cases are filed in Kenya every year, giving the impression that Kenyans are very litigious people.
CJ Maraga also revealed that alternative dispute resolution mechanisms like mediation is having a positive effect, adding that in the duration covered by the report Shs 7.2 billion that was held up by litigation was released into the economy through mediation.
The judiciary’s Chief Registrar Anne Amadi spoke at the event also attended by several dignitaries including foreign envoys.